Books to support people with cancer – and their loved ones

One in two people will develop cancer in their lifetime. If you, or someone you care about, has been diagnosed with cancer, it’s important to seek the help and support you need from your doctors and healthcare team. National charities, such as Cancer Research UK and Macmillan, have comprehensive websites containing easily understood cancer information, advice and personal stories. Many people find comfort in books about cancer, too. Here are some books about cancer that you, and your loved ones, may also find helpful, from personal stories to health information.

Doctors Get Cancer Too by Dr Philippa Kaye is the personal diary of a 39-year-old cancer patient who is also a GP. It’s an insightful and honest mix of medical facts, graphic details, humour and practical advice. And will hopefully provide some reassurance and comfort to other cancer patients, and their families. Published by Vie in February 2021.

F*** You Cancer by Deborah James, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 35. While cancer itself is a serious issue, this book takes a more light-hearted approach to coping with cancer, featuring all of James’s ups and downs through her diagnosis and treatment. Published by Ebury/Vermilion in October 2018.

The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer by Professor Trisha Greenhalgh and Dr Liz O’Riordan. Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, an academic GP, and Dr Liz O'Riordan, a consultant breast cancer surgeon, are not only experienced doctors, but have both also experienced breast cancer first-hand. Their book aims to help people who are going through cancer treatment, with the practical information and advice that helped both of them. Published by Ebury/Vermilion in September 2018.

Ticking Off Breast Cancer by Sara Liyanage, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 42. This book (a companion to the author’s website of the same name) is a chronological account of her medical appointments, scans and treatments, as she deals with the physical, emotional and mental challenges of a cancer diagnosis. She includes practical to-do checklists, to help other people going through cancer treatment. Published by Hashtag Press in September 2019.

Cross Everything: A Personal Journey into the Evolution of Cancer by Henry Scowcroft, whose partner was diagnosed with bladder cancer when she was in her mid-30s. This is a medical memoir about love and loss, and also a personal journey by Scowcroft to explore the science about the cancer that took his partner away too soon. The author works as a science writer for Cancer Research UK. Published by Green Tree in February 2021.

The Cancer Ladies’ Running Club by Josie Lloyd, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. Lloyd finished the Brighton Marathon 10K, despite going through chemotherapy at the time. Her experience inspired her humorous, life-affirming and uplifting novel about Keira, who was determined that her breast cancer diagnosis wasn’t going to define her. Published by HQ in May 2021. 

The Royal Marsden Cancer Cookbook by Dr Clare Shaw, who is a consultant dietitian specialising in cancer. This illustrated book focuses on the importance of nutrition during cancer treatment and recovery, with practical dietary advice and healthy, nutritious recipes for not just patients, but their families too. Fifty percent of the royalties go to supporting the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. Published by Kyle Books in February 2015.

My Parent Has Cancer and it Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice from Real-Life Teens by Maya Silva and Marc Silva. This book is written for teenagers by a father-daughter team, after their wife and mother, Marsha, died from cancer. Cancer is a difficult topic to talk about, especially with (and by) teenagers. This book gives practical guidance on various topics for teenagers whose parents have been diagnosed with cancer, including talking about cancer, dealing with stress, and losing a parent to cancer. Published by Sourcebooks in March 2013. 

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee won the Guardian First Book Award 2011 and the Pulitzer Prize for Non-fiction 2011. Mulherjee is a doctor, researcher and science writer. In his book, he explores the science, history and social impact of cancer and its treatment. Published by Fourth Estate in September 2011. 

A Scattering and Anniversary by Christopher Reid, whose wife, the actress Lucinda Gane, died from cancer at the age of 55. The Scattering, a poetic exploration of love and loss, was first published in 2009 and won that year’s Costa Book of the Year. Ten years on, it was paired with Anniversary, which also explores (in poetry) the impact of grief and bereavement. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and reprinted in October 2018.

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens, who died from cancer in 2011. He was diagnosed with cancer soon after the publication of his memoir, Hitch-22, which was nominated for the Orwell Prize. This book is a moving account of how he faced his illness, his experience of cancer treatments and how he confronted his own death. Published by Atlantic Books in August 2012.

Doctors Get Cancer Too

Doctors Get Cancer Too

Author: Dr Philippa Kaye Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/02/2021

Doctors Get Cancer Too is the 18-month diary of a cancer patient who is also a GP. Dr Philippa Kaye was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 39. In her book, she gives a personal, honest insight into her cancer scans, surgeries and chemotherapy, from diagnosis to recovery. She writes about how each stage felt and looked, the decisions she had to make and the impact it had on her and her family’s daily life, using humour to cushion the graphic details. Her GP role meant she understood the medical side of being a cancer patient, but the practical side was a steep learning curve for her, now seeing everything from the patient’s chair instead. She includes copies of the ‘just in case’ letters she wrote to her three young children, packing list for a hospital stay and home post-op tips. Her diaries weren’t originally written to be published. But by bravely sharing her thoughts, emotions and experiences in such a public manner, she hopes to provide some support, reassurance and comfort to other cancer patients – and to also highlight that bowel cancer can affect people at any age.

Star Books
F*** You Cancer

F*** You Cancer

Author: Deborah James Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/10/2018

You are stronger than you know, more positive than you ever thought and you can still LIVE with cancer. Drink more green juices, eat turmeric, walk for three hours a day... Arghh, I wanted to scream, run away and tell every well-meaning person to go and do one! Whilst this book doesn't advocate throwing all advice down the kitchen sink, it will empower you to do things your way as you navigate the big C roller coaster. Deborah James, campaigner and co-presenter of the top-charting podcast You, Me and the Big C, will take you through every twist and turn, reminding you that it's okay to feel one hundred different things in the space of a minute and showing you how you can still live your life and BE YOURSELF with cancer. Taking you from diagnosis (welcome to the club you never wanted to join), to coping with family and friends (can everyone just fuck off sometimes?!), looking good and feeling better (drink the wine), and celebrating milestones along the way (drink more wine!), this inspiring cancer coach in a book will transform your outlook and encourage you to shout #FUCKYOUCANCER as loudly as you can!

The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer

The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer

Author: Trisha Greenhalgh, Liz O’Riordan Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/09/2018

The book you can trust to support you at every stage of your treatment - and beyond Winner of best 'Popular Medicine' book, BMA Medical Book Awards 2019 Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, an academic GP, and Dr Liz O'Riordan, a Consultant Breast Cancer Surgeon, are not only outstanding doctors, but they have also experienced breast cancer first-hand. The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer brings together all the knowledge they have gathered as patients and as doctors to give you and your family a trusted, thorough and up-to-date source of information. Designed to empower you during your breast cancer treatment, it covers: Simple explanations of every breast cancer treatment Coping with the emotional burden of breast cancer Frank advice about sex and relationships Staying healthy during and after treatment Dealing with the fear of recurrence Living with secondary breast cancer Packed full of all the things the authors wished they'd known when they were diagnosed, and tips on how to cope with surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and beyond, this is the only book you need to read to guide you through your breast cancer diagnosis.

Ticking Off Breast Cancer

Ticking Off Breast Cancer

Author: Sara Liyanage Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/09/2019

Number 1 bestseller, Shortlisted for The Peoples Book Prize 2019. Previously an expert multi-tasker in her capacity as a busy, married, forty-two-year-old mother of two, and part time lawyer commuting into London, Sara managed her life by to-do list after to-do list. However, when breast cancer appeared on her list, Sara's life was thrown upside down and she had to make a few changes. With the combination of medical appointments, scans, and harsh treatment, Sara's dignity, grace and composure all flew out the window, but she did retain the ability to get herself organised and make a few lists to help her through the treatment. Armed with a multitude of shopping lists, to-do lists and checklists, she made it through eighteen months of gruelling cancer treatment to the other side, where, for the past couple of years, she's been basking in the glow of hair regrowth, new eyebrows and a renewed love for life. Ticking Off Breast Cancer is a chronological narrative of Sara's life from the day of her diagnosis and throughout her treatment. It follows Sara as she deals with the physical, emotional and mental challenges thrown at her by cancer and provides an honest insight into the treatment given to a breast cancer patient together with the impact that this has on someone's life. By sharing many of her to-do lists in the form of checklists at the end of each chapter, Ticking Off Breast Cancer provides thoughtful, helpful advice for every step of the way. Whether read as a companion for someone going through cancer treatment themselves, or as a guide for someone with a loved one or friend going through cancer treatment, Ticking Off Breast Cancer provides support and encouragement throughout. The book accompanies Sara's website of the same name, www.tickingoffbreastcancer.com, which provides practical help and support for those going through breast cancer treatment.

Cross Everything

Cross Everything

Author: Henry Sowcroft Format: Hardback Release Date: 18/02/2021

An extraordinary memoir that explores the further reaches of today's cancer science - alongside a deeply tender story of loss, grief and love. When Henry Scowcroft's partner Zarah was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer in her mid-thirties, their world fell apart. In order to cope with the upheaval as they endured scans, aggressive chemotherapy and hospital stays, Henry began writing down and sharing their experiences with friends and family. His day job as a writer for the charity Cancer Research UK helped him to explain everything he was learning from the coalface of cancer treatment - including Zarah's diagnosis, and their rollercoaster journey through the health system. After Zarah's untimely death Henry found some closure and comfort by trying to learn more about her cancer from scientific analysis of the test results and biopsies taken during her treatment, and enlisted a team of doctors and researchers to help him. Could he have done more? How did Zarah's tumour develop? Could there be a legacy from her death that would help others diagnosed with cancer? This heart-wrenching memoir of love and loss is interspersed with Henry's mission to understand the cancer that took his partner too soon.

The Cancer Ladies' Running Club

The Cancer Ladies' Running Club

Author: Josie Lloyd Format: Paperback Release Date: 13/05/2021

Sometimes we need our friends to help us find our feet... When Keira first receives her breast cancer diagnosis, she doesn't want to have to tell her family, or step back from work. She doesn't want to sit in a hospital, or be part of a group of fellow cancer patients. Cancer is not her club. But as she accepts that her health is no longer something she can rely on, Keira finds herself embracing running. And running in the company of a group of brilliant, funny women each going through treatment unexpectedly gives Keira the hope she needs. Because the C-word is not going to define Keira's identity. And with the Cancer Ladies' Running Club cheering her on, she's going to reclaim her life. One step at a time. Life isn't always the race we expected to run but this moving and uplifting novel is full of hope and about love, family, friendship and the power of finding your tribe.

The Royal Marsden Cancer Cookbook Nutritious Recipes During and After Treatment, to Share with Friends and Family

The Royal Marsden Cancer Cookbook Nutritious Recipes During and After Treatment, to Share with Friends and Family

Author: Clare Shaw PhD, RD Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/02/2015

What I particularly like about Clare Shaw’s book are firstly the detailed pages on nutrition and the consideration of diet and what to eat at different stages of cancer, the eating problems that can occur and how to enjoy food as much as possible while eating a healthy and nourishing diet. Secondly there is the emphasis on sharing food, the patient not having to eat a separate diet, there are recipes here that all can enjoy so the pleasures of the table and eating with family and friends can continue through treatment. Lots of ideas too, on preparing food ahead for days when the effort is too much, all in all it’s a wise book for any cancer sufferer – and just as important, 50% of the royalties from the sale of the book go to supporting the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.   Like for Like Reading Eating for Better Health, Jane Plant and Gillian Tidey Nourish: The Cancer Care cookbook, Penny Brohn and Christine Bailey

My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks

My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks

Author: Marc Silver, Maya Silver Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/04/2013

Let's face it, cancer sucks. This book provides real-life advice from real-life teens designed to help teens live with a parent who is fighting cancer. One million American teenagers live with a parent who is fighting cancer. It's a hard blow for those already navigating high school, preparing for college, and becoming increasingly independent. Author Maya Silver was 15 when her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. She and her dad, Marc, have combined their family's personal experience with advice from dozens of medical professionals and real stories from 100 teens-all going through the same thing Maya did. The topic of cancer can be difficult to approach, but in a highly designed, engaging style, this book gives practical guidance that includes: How to talk about the diagnosis (and what does diagnosis even mean, anyway?) The best outlets for stress (punching a wall is not a great one, but should it happen, there are instructions for a patch job) How to deal with friends (especially one the ones with 'pity eyes') Whether to tell the teachers and guidance counselors and what they should know (how not to get embarrassed in class) What happens in a therapy session and how to find a support group if you want one A special section for parents also gives tips on strategies for sharing the news and explaining cancer to a child, making sure your child doesn't become the parent, what to do if the outlook is grim, and tips for how to live life after cancer. My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks allows teens to see that they are not alone. That no matter how rough things get, they will get through this difficult time. That everything they're feeling is ok. Essays from Gilda Radner's Gilda's Club annual contest are an especially poignant and moving testimony of how other teens dealt with their family's situation.

The Emperor of All Maladies

The Emperor of All Maladies

Author: Siddhartha Mukherjee Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/09/2011

Winner of the Guardian First Book Award 2011. Shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize 2011. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction 2011. A magnificent, beautifully written biography of cancer -- from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles to cure, control and conquer it, to a radical new understanding of its essence.   Author and academic Sarah Churchwell, who was on the judging panel, said: “The Emperor of All Maladies is a cultural history of cancer and its treatment, from its first identification as a disease in the ancient world to 21st century research into its cellular genesis and treatment. “Siddhartha Mukherjee has marshalled an immense amount of material into a readable and inspiring story. The result is a gripping, enlightening read about the nature of illness and our battle against what begins to look like mortality itself.”

eBooks of the Month
A Scattering and Anniversary

A Scattering and Anniversary

Author: Christopher Reid Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/08/2019

This edition brings together A Scattering and Anniversary into a single book of lamentation and remembrance, its subject being Christopher Reid's wife, the actress Lucinda Gane, who died of cancer at the age of fifty-five. A Scattering was first published in the UK in 2009 to wide acclaim, winning the Costa Book of the Year Award. This moving and fiercely self-reflective collection is divided into four poetic sequences. The first was written during a holiday a few months before Gane's death with the knowledge that the end was approaching; the second recalls her last courageous weeks, spent in a hospice in London; the third continues the exploration of bereavement from a variety of perspectives; and the fourth addresses her directly, celebrating her life, personality and achievements. Pairing A Scattering for the first time with Anniversary, which was written to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Gane's death, this volume brings Reid into dialogue, again, with the wife he loved. A moving exploration of the stages of grief and how the 'weighty emptinesses' that remain after bereavement change us, A Scattering and Anniversary show us what it means to love, lose and - forever changed - continue on.

Mortality

Mortality

Author: Christopher Hitchens Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/09/2012

September 2012 Book of the Month. How acclaimed author and journalist Christopher Hitchens is taken “from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady”. Cancer had struck and these last essays convey the struggle of the living as they drift further towards this land where medical men “battle” with your illness and where the treatment can often seem worse than the disease itself. He casts a stark eye over his own physical condition, the weakness, the pain and the way the disease crowds out almost everything else. A spare book that both saddens and heartens for it is our life that matters in the end not our death or our final destination. The book ends with the brief notes Christopher Hitchens made before he died and an afterword by his wife Carol Blue.Like for Like ReadingSmile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World, Barbara Ehrenreich C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too, John Diamond

eBooks of the Month

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